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The Ultimate Tricity Pierogi Test

Our pierogi journey continues! After finding the Holy Grail of the Warsaw pierogi scene, the time has come to look for the tastiest, most delicious and cutest fare in Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia. If the Tricity is your first encounter with Poland, you’re probably wondering where to head for the best mythical Polish dumpling all the guidebooks rave about. If you’re local, you’ve probably been ask the question ‘where to find the best?’ hundreds of times by your foreign guests. And this is not a question that is ieasy to answer but hey, there’s Eat Polska, so again, we decided to devour half a ton of pierogi to locate some mouth-watering gems and warn you against places to avoid. Are you ready? Let’s eat!

(just below, we will describe quite carefully how we decided to rate pierogi. If you don’t care about all the magic we did to provide the most objective results, CLICK HERE to jump straight to the ranks;)

 

METHODOLOGY

 

The Jury

There were three of us: a tasting panel composed of our guides, men and a woman.

2/3 of the happy testers | photo: Eat Polska

Happy testers | photo: Eat Polska

 

Selection

Basing on our experience and research, we picked 10 places to try traditional pierogi. We only took under consideration spots that had all the three on their menu: ruskie, meat and sauerkraut/mushrooms dumplings. Ok, but wait a second: if we picked 10 spots, why is there only nine on the list? Well, in case of one of the places some opinions turned out to be a little too biased, so for a balanced and neutral result we decided to exclude it from the final list.

 

Points

We decided to take a half-scientific approach to our test and drafted a semi-professional evaluation card. We hope it doesn’t result in 50% accurate results.

What we took under consideration was:
FILLING (22 points max): Nearly half of the points here were awarded for what we simply called ‘taste’. We decided to be totally subjective about it and do not debate over individual judgments. The remaining 12 points could have been gained for ‘saltiness’ (too much, too little), ‘seasoning’, ‘proportion of filling vs. dough’ and ‘quality of ingredients used’.
DOUGH (12 points max): 6 points goes to ‘taste’ and the remaining 6 to ‘texture’ (you don’t want your dough to be like chewing gum) and ‘thickness’ (you don’t want to eat a pound of flour with a teaspoon of minced meat).
PRESENTATION (5 points max): it’s just pierogi, but why not make them look spectacular on the plate? You can seal pierogi in million ways, some are plain, others superfancy. We also checked how extra things on the plate correspond with pierogi.
RUSKIE FACTOR (+1 or -1 point): when referring to ‘ruskie’ in English, many restaurants would call them “Russian”, which is wrong (read why!). We decided to appreciate correct translations with an extra point and punish Russophiles (nothing personal, Russia, it’s just that “ruskie” don’t have much to do with you) with a negative one.

Altogether, there were 360 points to be won in the ‘Traditional’ category for each place serving pierogi (40 points for each type of dumplings, so 120 for three types multiplied by 3 testers equals 360. Simple.).

 

Ranks

So, who’s the best? …drumroll…

 

09. BOROWA CIOTKA

141 points total
average for pierogi types: ruskie – 10.4/40, meat – 9.6/40, sauerkraut+mushrooms – 8.2/40,
Ruskie Factor result: 0 (no English menu available)

Borowa Ciotka: nope. | photo: Eat Polska

Borowa Ciotka: nope. | photo: Eat Polska

Borowa Ciotka is a truly lovely place. Tucked away just off the main road between Gdynia and Sopot, hidden in between “działki”: small, green allotments used for private recreation and/or growing veggies, it has a charming, countryside atmosphere. And that’s what we expected from the pierogi here: totally homemade stuff with a lot of heart put in.

We can’t complain about the homey atmosphere the place has, but its pierogi was just… disappointing. The ruskie filling was sweet (that’s because sweet quark was used, which goes ok in sweet-style pierogi, but not in ruskie), sour (as if they were not fresh enough?) and bitter at the same time (why bitter? We had no idea). The meat filling was sour, too, which again made us wonder if they were fresh. Moreover, the fried onions served as a topping were terribly sweet, which definitely didn’t go well with any of the savoury pierogi. To sum up: not worth a trip.

Borowa Ciotka, Al. Zwycięstwa 36/108, Gdynia

 

08. MANDU

171 points total
average for pierogi types: ruskie – 11.1/40, meat – 13.3/40, sauerkraut+mushrooms – 9.8/40,
Ruskie Factor result: 0 (the restaurant doesn’t use the word “ruskie” even on a Polish menu, instead it lists ingredients of the filling)

Mandu, legendary pierogi that disappointed | photo: Eat Polska

Mandu, legendary pierogi that disappointed | photo: Eat Polska

All the Gdańsk locals are now doing a double take: Mandu last but one?! It’s a pierogi institution, a place where you have to wait in line to be seated, where the dumplings are made fresh on the spot (you can actually see it behind a glass wall) and there’s an unbelievable choice of pierogi options from around the world. Well, there you are. Apparently the choice is too big. We focused on Polish classics and they failed. First of all, the dough was sooooo thick! So much that when we commented on that to the waitress, she agreed and promised to mention that to the ladies responsible for preparing the dumplings (which is a proper, professional reaction). Oops no. 2 was the sauerkraut/mushrooms pierogi. They consisted of champignons and some parsley only (no forest mushrooms) and again, upon our reaction the waitress admitted they served a different type we didn’t actually order (apparently, they were the champignons, cheese, parsley type but after a really close examination, we found no cheese there whatsoever). Again, we must do justice to the quality of service: they apologized and offered us drinks. But well, we didn’t visit for the lemonade. All in all, even the ‘right’ fillings turned out to be mediocre or poor quality (the ruskie filling contained microscopic amounts of curd) so we left really disappointed.

Mandu, ul. Elżbietańska 4/8 and ul. Kaprów 19d, Gdańsk

 

07. PIEROGARNIA U DZIKA

172.5 points total
average for pierogi types: ruskie – 10.8/40, meat – 12.3/40, sauerkraut+mushrooms – 11.4/40,
Ruskie Factor result: -1

U Dzika: mediocrity on square plates | photo: Eat Polska

U Dzika: mediocrity on square plates | photo: Eat Polska

U Dzika is one of Gdańsk’s Main City evergreens and your typical tourist trap. One of those places you only visit once: because you’re a tourist. Maybe this is why all the filings contained mysterious ‘thickening agents’: breadcrumbs, potato flakes, perhaps semolina. We think they’re all ok, but when you order sauerkraut and mushrooms pierogi, you expect sauerkraut and mushroom filling. So we felt cheated. Other than this, the dough was far from impressive (too hard, as if it was not boiled enough, which is surprising given the 30-min waiting time) and everything is served on square plates. They are oh-so-modern! We think there should be special circle in hell for restaurant owners serving their food on square plates.

Pierogarnia u Dzika, ul. Piwna 59/60, Gdańsk

 

06. PIEROŻEK

207.5 points total
average for pierogi types: ruskie – 15.1/40, meat – 14.6/40, sauerkraut+mushrooms – 11.8/40,
Ruskie Factor result: +1

Pierożek: cute name, cute tablecloths | photo: Eat Polska

Pierożek: cute name, cute tablecloths | photo: Eat Polska

This is where we start talking about decent pierogi. Pierożek is a little, cute pieróg (which is singular of pierogi), so you can see even the name suggest some affection for the Polish national dish. You find it hard to prononuce this name? Don’t wory, it’s not you, it’s Polish. Ok, but how did the test go in that case? Ruskie, even though a little too sticky inside, had a good proportion of potatoes vs curd, perhaps with a little too much of fried onions. And pepper. Generally all the types were rather spicy which some might like, especially in case of ruskie, but it may be a killer for the sauerkraut/mushrooms. Which in case of Pierożek, were far too sour and had just traces of mushrooms – not enough to feel their flavour. The meat pierogi tasted ‘homey’, but we suspect the quality of meat was not the best (probably a lot of poultry, instead of pork and beef). We liked the presentation (and the colourfull tablecloths made a nice backdrop for the white plates and pale pierogi) but what was not ok was the lard topping for meat pierogi (instead of bacon, as the menu promised).

Pierożek, Al. Jana Pawła II 11a, Gdynia

 

05. NOVA PIEROGOVA

220 points total
average for pierogi types: ruskie – 15.6/40, meat – 13.9/40, sauerkraut+mushrooms – 14.5/40,
Ruskie Factor result: -1

Nova Pierogova: pepper decoration | photo: Eat Polska

Nova Pierogova: pepper decoration | photo: Eat Polska

It’s a small place with a lovely view. Located just across the Granary Island from the Main City in Gdańsk, opposite the new marina. Nova Pierogova specializes in… guess what, and it serves pierogi that are ok. And this is what we didn’t like. We wanted pierogi that will make us go ‘wow!’. The meat filling was pork and poultry instead of pork and beef, as the menu says. Oh, come on! The sauerkraut/mushrooms version would be even more than ok if it had some more seasoning in it. It was only ruskie (translated as “Russian”…) that were really something: probably the first ones we tried that had butter added to the potato filling that gave it a creamy texture and flavour. Also the dough, despite being a little too sticky, had very good thickness. We wished we didn’t have to wait so long and would rather have pierogi served on round plates but we must admit they looked nice. However, thick ground pepper on the ruskie pierogi made them feel too spicy.

Nova Pierogova, ul. Szafarnia 6, Gdańsk

 

04. PIEROGI LWOWSKIE

221.5 points total
average for pierogi types: ruskie – 14.2/40, meat – 17.1/40, sauerkraut+mushrooms – 13/40,
Ruskie Factor result: 0 (the restaurant doesn’t use the word “ruskie” even on a Polish menu, instead it lists ingredients of the filling)

Pierogi Lwowskie: Polish-Ukraininan | photo: Eat Polska

Pierogi Lwowskie: Polish-Ukraininan | photo: Eat Polska

Lwów. Lviv. A city in Ukraine that many Polish people will call ‘formerly Polish’. In fact, Lviv used to be Polish for a couple of centuries but it’s not anymore and Pierogi Lwowskie, run by the Ukrainian owners prove it, serving the dumplings eastern style. We ordered a mixed plate and the presentation was just as it should be: just pierogi and a little bit of green (salad and chopped parsley), it really looked beautiful. What we found on the plate was not as perfect, unfortunately. We really want to forget about the sauerkraut/mushrooms dumplings, they were sour and bitter, and not even the Cossack who was waiting on the table (waiting for leftovers?) wanted to eat them. Ruskie (described as potato and curd) almost didn’t have curd but were good. What we really loved, though, was the meat version. And this is where we come back to the eastern vibe the place has (even the napkins were blue and yellow, as the Ukrainian flag is). What we found inside the thin, al dente dough, was meat cooked raw, with dill and garlic. Delicious! This is not a classic Polish way of preparing meat pierogi but we still thought it was better than all the other meat pierogi we had had at that point!

Pierogi Lwowskie, ul. Do Studzienki 8, Gdańsk

 

03. MOCNO NADZIANE

223.5 points total
average for pierogi types: ruskie – 14.4/40, meat – 16.3/40, sauerkraut+mushrooms – 14/40,
Ruskie Factor result: -1

Mocno Nadziane: pierogi with a touch of green | photo: Eat Polska

Mocno Nadziane: pierogi with a touch of green | photo: Eat Polska

Mocno Nadziane stands for ‘Properly Stuffed’ and we must admit, the proportion of filling vs dough in this place is more than satisfactory. The dough at this popular Sopot eatery was also good enough but what about the fillings? The least impressive was the sauerkraut/mushrooms with homeopathic traces of mushrooms and an overall too sweet favour. Ruskie were far better, with a decent dose of curd but not enough onions, which made them taste a bit to sour. The winner was the meat filling with a very good quality bacon topping. The way the pierogi are served is really nice: they’re carefully sealed by hand (another spot where you can see your dumplings made on the spot) and served with sunflower seed sprouts, which make the plate look colourful and decorative but the question is, does it match the taste of pierogi? Guess the answer. It doesn’t, so this is where we cut a few points. Also, if there were points for staff politeness, Mocno Nadziane would get some negative ones. Work on that, guys!

Mocno Nadziane, ul. Haffnera 7, Sopot

 

02. SWOJSKI SMAK

248 points total
average for pierogi types: ruskie – 14.2/40, meat – 17.2/40, sauerkraut+mushrooms – 18.2/40,
Ruskie Factor result: +1

BEST MEAT winner

BEST SAUERKRAUT+MUSHROOMS winner

Swojski Smak: amazing sauerkraut+mushrooms! | photo: Eat Polska

Swojski Smak: amazing sauerkraut+mushrooms! | photo: Eat Polska

Let’s start with the fact that Swojski Smak is one of those places we would naturally avoid: located in the outskirts of the touristy centre, in the groud flor of a block of flats, opposite a chain hotel. You’d expect it to be one of those typical mediocre restaurants luring tourists with the ‘traditional’ hashtag. But one of the reasons why we love writing this blog is because it forces us to visit such places, try their food and say: we’re sorry! We’re sorry to have misjudged you! This inconspicuous place is where we had a blast eating the best, highest quality and just-exactly-as-the-grandma-would-make-them pierogi with sauerkraut and mushrooms. And we mean mushrooms: ceps mostly. The meat filling was another highlight. Can you imagine this was the first time it really had good spices in it? Garlic and marjoram made eating these pierogi a fantastic experience. The only pierogi that were not as good as the others were ruskie: too sour, too peppery, too mediocre. Other than that, put this place on your pieorgi list!

Swojski Smak, ul. Heweliusza 25/27, Gdańsk

 

01. GOSPODA GDAŃSK

248.5 points total
average for pierogi types: ruskie – 17.9/40, meat – 16.5/40, sauerkraut+mushrooms – 15.3/40,
Ruskie Factor result: +1

BEST RUSKIE winner

Gospoda Gdańsk: the winner! | photo: Eat Polska

Gospoda Gdańsk: the winner! | photo: Eat Polska

Can you see what happened here?! The winner is 0.5 point ahead of place no. 2! Half a point! Ok so what is this place? Gospoda Gdańsk (Gdańsk Inn) is located up Plac Zebrań Ludowych Square, around 10-minute walk from the main train station in Gdańsk. And it’s a real countryside cottage teleported into the city where you can feel at home and feast on homey pierogi:) The winner here is ruskie: fantastic proportion of potatoes vs curd, good saltiness, fresh and yummy! The dough is just as it should be, although on some of the dumplings the seal was a bit too thick. Oh, sealing: they were one of the most beautifully sealed pierogi we had! Gospoda did also pretty well in the meat department: the filling was real good quality fare but what made us cut some points was the topping: it resembled finely chopped hot dog sausage and was definitely too salty. And even though the sauerkraut/mushrooms version was good, it didn’t steal our hearts (palates?). All in all, Gospoda turned out to be the place where pierogi quality, of all types, was most consistent with ruskie being a shining star. Congratulations!

Gospoda Gdańsk, ul. Giełguda 4, Gdańsk

 

Just as a side note: testing new, unexpected places is so much fun. Not only you can discover amazing flavours but also see how different approach there is to such a simple (one might think) dish as pierogi. And an extra bonus is an opportunity to take some of the most #wtf photos in your life:)

Welcome to the Pierogiland! | photo: Eat Polska

Welcome to the Pierogiland! | photo: Eat Polska

Note: if you haven’t had enough yet, you can see a detailed rating board of our test here.

 

Text: Michał Sobieszuk
We’re Eat Polska. We run culinary tours about food and vodka in Warsaw, Krakow and Gdansk. We’re also passionate foodies and city explorers, and this blog is where we share our hints with you.

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